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Wednesday, March 17, 2021


OnStage@Altitude recently presented Abahambayo. The following is a review by Thobile Maphanga.

Abahambayo, a movement that preserves while it inspires, dazzled as it reminded us of isintu sethu. (Review by Thobile Maphanga)

I have craved live music for some time now. It's the one thing that I truly have longed for during lockdown. The one thing I am certain I could not live much longer without. So when I heard there was an opportunity to catch one of the most under-acknowledged bands of my city I was more than super excited. And Abahambayo at Altitude on Friday (March 12, 2021) did not disappoint!

Altitude has evolved from your friendly LGBTQI++ bar to a live performance space during the pandemic. It's tiny stage and limited seating offers the perfect setting for a socially distanced, yet intimate musical soiree. The ample outside area is perfectly comfortable with its roomy couches and additional bar, making it a perfect venue for the 'new normal'.

The band, consisting of the original duo Frankie Buthelezi and Nhlanhla Zondi have grown to include legendary Barry Clausen and multi-talented Njabulile "Oudskul" Nzuza. As the band name Abahambayo suggests, these musos are moving and they will move you. From the very first number, everyone in the darkened theatre was tapping their toes/fingers, bopping their heads and swaying their torsos to the rhythms of their authentically folk sound. Their Afro-folk, as drummer Oudskul refers to the genre, is sung predominantly in isiZulu; offering a verse or chorus in English to allow all audience members a chance to understand the beautifully layered messages each song offers whilst singing along.

I was mesmerized firstly by the beauty of these souls on stage. Frankie, the versatile lead singer, crowned in iscolo (isiZulu headdress) and adorned in a black strapless gown that moved like liquid with her, shone from the inside out as her spirit soared in communion with her vocals seducing, soothing, and inciting us. Oudskul kept it kicking on the drums whilst the offbeat Barry deftly slapped and stroked the bass. Nhlanhla's melodic guitar and measured percussive back-up vocals kept us grounded in the genre. The journey we embarked on was entirely immersive, we were all so engaged that every now and again an audience member couldn't help but burst out of their seat to lahla umlenze.

A highlight was when the inimitable Frankie called Gcina "The Watcher" Shange onto stage to join them on "Imibuzo" and "Thulungakali". We kikiza'd (ululated) as harsh truths were laid on us and our humanity returned to us. The Watcher spit bars like a true rockstar, slapping us with a polished delivery that speaks to years of careful crafting. The band closed with the reason for this performance, the official launch of the single Mntanomuntu featuring Freedom Musiq, who had jumped on a couple of other tracks. The single was met with an arousing standing ovation.

I felt my soul overflow with gratitude, joy and a sheer appreciation for isiqi sami (my culture). Although I have precariously loose ties to my Zulu heritage and had felt little at the news of the loss of the Zulu king earlier in the day, this moment in a long period of darkness felt like a fitting candle held in honour of the Zulu culture. A reminder, to people like me, of how to hold it in higher esteem and value it more as we move forward. - Thobile Maphanga

OnStage@Altitude is situated at 25 Silver Avenue in Greyville, Durban. Bookings or enquiries on 064 476 9533.